Prior to December 2011, instances of widespread collective mobilization were relatively rare in contemporary Russia. Russian citizens are more likely to engage in a different means of airing grievances: making an official complaint to the authorities. This article considers how complaint-making, as a variety of political participation, may contribute either to authoritarian resilience or to political liberalization. The political significance of complaints made to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation is examined. Since it is the broader political context that shapes the significance of complaints, in the absence of meaningful elections individualized appeals to the state are unlikely to promote democratic change, although they may allow for redress of individual rights violations.